04/27/2006 12:00AM

Don't be influenced by Derby Trial results

Dawn of War, makes his second start of the year in the Derby Trial.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With only two of the nine starters in Saturday's one-mile Derby Trial at Churchill Downs reportedly being considered for the Kentucky Derby - Mister Triester and Dawn of War - the race isn't a major Derby test. Yet the results of the Derby Trial may influence how bettors view horses pointing to other races, including the Kentucky Derby.

The performances of Mister Triester, who ran second to Sweetnorthernsaint in the

April 8 Illinois Derby, and Noonmark, who ran a close second to Sharp Humor in the March 4 Swale, may influence horseplayers' opinions of the chances of Sweetnorthernsaint and Sharp Humor in the Derby.

Not that I believe it should. The circumstances of the Derby Trial strongly differ from the Derby, even the Derby preps. When Mister Triester ran second to Sweetnorthernsaint in the Illinois Derby, he did so with a perfect trip, racing on the lead with soft fractions in the 1 1/8-mile contest. The beneficial trip all but assured that he would run well, and he did, finishing ahead of third-place Cause to Believe but finishing 9 1/4 lengths behind Sweetnor-thernsaint.

Saturday, Mister Triester is racing against a field of sprinters and milers, not 3-year-olds looking to stretch out and pass distance tests. His chances of shaking loose and establishing soft splits appear unlikely. I'm betting he will be out of the exacta, maybe even the trifecta.

My choice is Noonmark, who fell just short of Sharp Humor in the Swale. Stalking the pace for the first time, Noonmark made a bold move to take the lead from Sharp Humor between calls in the stretch before being outfinished by a neck. He ran well, but simply could not beat Sharp Humor, who combines a powerful combination of speed and tenacity.

I also like that trainer Steve Asmussen seems focused on developing Noonmark in one-turn races, and a one-turn mile such as the Derby Trial would appear a nice transition from the seven-furlong Swale.

Although it has produced 12 Kentucky Derby winners since its inaugural running in 1924, the Derby Trial is really more of a race that works to develop a sprinter or miler. Since 1990, such crack sprinters as Midas Eyes, Cherokee Run, and Housebuster have won the race.

Asmussen also won the race in 1996, with Valid Expectations, who would later win the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap going one turn.

Record and Dawn of War are my second and third choices. Record has never been off the board in four starts while facing talented 3-year-olds on the West Coast. Dawn of War's back class is appealing, as he won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity last fall at Keeneland.

Dawn of War needed his last start, the Transylvania Stakes, in which he was returning from a layoff and tired badly to finish eighth after surging to the lead coming into the stretch.

Dynamist should offer attractive price

Dynamist looms a probable overlay on the Churchill program in race seven. Stretched out to her best distance of 1 1/8 miles on turf, she should improve upon her season debut last month at Keeneland, where she finished third against second-level allowance horses.

Facing a talented field that includes a pair of recent runner-up finishers in Aimer and Esplanade, plus stakes dropper Almost Innocent, Dynamist should offer a rewarding price.

Adding to Dynamist's appeal are her winning connections. Trainer Ralph Nicks went 7 for 25 last spring at Churchill Downs with a $2.88 ROI on his starters, and 5 for 28 with a $7.70 ROI during the fall Churchill meet.

Robby Albarado, named to ride Dynamist, is also a go-to rider for Nicks. Counting both of last year's meets at Churchill, Albarado and Nicks have combined to go 7 for 16 together with a $7.36 ROI.